Recruiting myths and misconceptions, the HR industry is full of them. What works and what doesn’t is not that clear, making it hard to achieve the desired results and foster trust with other business functions.
An essential contributing factor adding to the problem is the noise, coming from the numerous recruiting tools, trends & buzzwords. All the information out there is overwhelming for recruiters and limits their ability for effective decision making.
To make recruiters’ lives a bit easier, we’ve gathered some major recruiting myths and explain why they are actually myths. These insights will help recruiters filter some of the noise and become more effective, basing their approach on science and evidence, instead of gut feeling and shiny new things such as tools, practices or just opinions.
Recruiting Myth #1 – An Experienced Hire is a Better Hire
You don’t have to work in recruiting to witness the “3-5 years of experience in similar role” requirement written in the majority of job descriptions.
Are the 3-5 years actually necessary to perform the job? This is the 1 million dollar question.
In most cases, they are not. But it happens, because recruiters or/and hiring managers, believe that people with previous relevant work experience will perform better, leading to quality hires and, thus, resulting in a job done better. If only this were true…
A meta-analysis based on 75 studies, published in Personnel Psychology, looked at the extent to which work experience – acquired before starting a new job – predicts job performance and training performance.
The analysis indicated little evidence, supporting that work experience predicts job performance. Similar results came up for the training performance!
The only instance that experience plays a role in predicting future performance is in highly complex jobs (neurosurgeons, physicists, or air traffic controllers) and in low complex jobs (factory workers).
But since most jobs (marketing managers, accounting etc) that organizations are hiring for are, in terms of complexity, somewhere in the middle, then previous experience isn’t a criterion capable of predicting candidates’ future performance on the job.
Action for recruiters
Next time you are told by your manager or a hiring manager that the vacancy, for which you’re about to initiate the recruitment process requires X years experience, ask why. Use the research to strengthen your argument.
Finally, if you want to help job seekers to better understand the kind of experience you need, try to identify what specific tasks and aspects of the job require extensive previous experience. So, instead of saying 3 years of working experience in corporate finance, use: “at least one year experience in unsupervised building of sophisticated financial models”. In other words, if you are to quantify a job requirement, try quantifying it in a meaningful and “scientifically-compliant” way.
Recruiting Myth #2 – Emotional Intelligence Predicts Future Performance
Emotional intelligence, EI, or EQ has been a huge buzzword in HR and especially in recruiting for quite some time now. It is widely believed that highly emotionally intelligent people are more effective in a business context, because of their ability to understand and manage their own emotional state as well as that of others.
This perception has led to the creation of numerous assessment tools, claiming to measure candidates’ EQ. But even if they do measure it, which is very doubtful, does this metric actually correlate and, ultimately, predict future performance?
A study looked at the correlation between emotional intelligence and job performance, through a meta-analysis of the data from 15 meticulously selected studies.
To EI lovers’ surprise, emotional intelligence, while correlated (0.29) with job performance, can’t be considered a strong predictor of the latter. To put it simply, emotional intelligence can predict only 8.4% of a candidate’s future performance, leaving the other 91.6% totally unexplained.
You may think that even 8.4% is still a legit insight. But, compared to 26%, which is the percentage to which General Mental Ability can predict one’s performance at work, you realize that investing in an EQ based assessment would be a total waste of organizational resources.
Action for recruiters
Don’t get bamboozled by shiny new tools, claiming to measure a trendy characteristic and functioning as a magic crystal ball that sees in the future of candidates’ performance.
There are assessments out there, extensively researched and well established that provide similar insights, with greater predictability. Take the 5 Factor Personality Test, for example, also known as the Big Five. It measures conscientiousness, emotional stability and extraversion among other things, which are very close to some of the elements of emotional intelligence and, at the same time, much more effective when it comes to predicting future behavior.
Recruiting Myth #3 – More Interviews Lead to Better Hiring Outcomes
It’s not uncommon for companies to ask candidates to come time after time, for yet another interview. When in doubt, this is the way by which hiring managers and recruiters minimize the risk of hiring a new employee.
The goal is to have as many interactions as possible, usually with different people in the organization, to gather “insights” on a candidate, ensuring that the hired person has been approved by multiple stakeholders. The general belief behind this practice is: the more people that approve a candidate the better the hire.
Bock’s colleague, Todd Carlisle, who was at the time a PhD analyst on Google’s staffing team, looked at the question of whether having up to twenty-five interviews per candidate created the desired added value. “He found that four interviews were enough to predict whether or not we should hire someone with 86 percent confidence. Every additional interviewer after the fourth added only 1 percent more predictive power.”
This analysis led to Google’s “Rule of Four,” limiting the number of interviews a candidate could have on-site. That change decreased time-to-hire to 47 days, compared to 90 to 180 days in the past.
Action for recruiters
The context plays a major role in HR and recruiting practices. So, one may claim that if the “Rule of Four” is what works at Google, it doesn’t mean that it will also work at any organization. And you’re right. The rule of four is not a generic best practice. But it provides recruiters with a general rule of thumb.
There’s no value in having numerous interviews with top candidates. Instead, set your recruiting process, based on the attributes that must be measured per position, and have a reasonable number of interviews, the goal of which will be to see whether the candidate meets those attributed requirements.
It’s the recruiter’s responsibility to be on top of the best – scientifically proven – practices. Recruiters should try new things and innovate, however, it is also critical to take advantage of existing research and encompass the insights in everything they do. This way they become true talent acquisition partners and create value for an organization.
- Iddekinge, CH, Arnold, JD, Frieder, RE, Roth, PL. A meta‐analysis of the criterion‐related validity of prehire work experience. Personnel Psychology. 2019
- Joseph, D. L., Jin, J., Newman, D. A., & O’Boyle, E. H. (2015). Why does self-reported emotional intelligence predict job performance? A meta-analytic investigation of mixed EI. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(2), 298.
- Bock, L. (2015). Work rules!: Insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead.